Even if you are old enough to remember a time before they existed, you probably take for granted certain features of public life that have become standard since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990. When was the last time you parked in a parking lot that did not have the nearest spaces reserved for people with disabilities or entered a mall or office building that did not have wheelchair ramps and elevators? When was the last time you rode in an elevator that did not have the numbers in Braille on the elevator buttons or watched video content on a television set or website that did not have the option to turn on captioning? The purpose of these accommodations is to make life easier for people with disabilities related to mobility, vision, and hearing. Although accommodations for people with disabilities might seem like the rule rather than the exception, employees still often run into problems with getting their employers to make accommodations for their disabilities in the workplace. The Minneapolis disability accommodations lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP can help you resolve disputes related to disability accommodations in the workplace.
In Employment Law Terms, What is a Disability?
A disability is a chronic physical or mental condition that makes it difficult for a person to perform their duties without additional accommodations. Some examples of disabilities include blindness or low vision, deafness, and mobility impairments that require the person to use a wheelchair. Of course, some disabilities are invisible; your health condition counts as a disability if your doctors say it does. Disabilities can be temporary or permanent. Some disabilities are so severe that they make it impossible to work, and the law provides for financial support for people unable to work because of their disabilities, but many people with disabilities are employed full-time or part-time in a wide variety of career fields. The law prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of disability, along with other categories such as race, religion, and gender. If you have a documented disability, then employers are required to make reasonable accommodations to enable you to work.
What are Reasonable Accommodations for Employees With Disabilities?
Everyone can recognize a disability accommodation when they see one; they include desks designed for use with wheelchairs and software that converts text to audio or Braille, to name some of the most visible examples. An accommodation can also be something like adjusting an employee’s schedule so that the employee can test their blood sugar and inject insulin according to their doctors’ instructions. Where employers and employees often disagree about reasonable accommodations is when it comes to deciding on what is reasonable. Certain disabilities are truly incompatible with certain jobs, but in most cases, some kind of accommodation is available that would make it possible for the employee to perform the job duties associated with them. Making accommodations for an employee with disabilities always comes at a cost to the employer, and whether the financial burden is reasonable can be a matter of debate. In general, larger companies have more resources available to put toward disability accommodations than small businesses do.
Employers are required by law to make reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities when it is within their power to make these accommodations. If your employer refuses to make accommodations for you, making it impossible for you to do your job, you have a case against your employer for employment discrimination based on disability. The same is true if your employer refuses to hire you because of your disability or if your employer retaliates against you after you complain about the lack of accommodations. Furthermore, Minnesota law protects employees from retaliation after they participate in the investigation into discrimination against another employee who requested disability accommodations, as well as for having friends, family members, or a spouse with disabilities.
When are Employers Exempt from Making Reasonable Accommodations?
According to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, a reasonable accommodation is one that the employer can make without experiencing undue financial hardship. There is no legally prescribed mathematical formula for determining how much an accommodation would have to cost for it to count as undue hardship. These are some instances when providing accommodations for a employee with a disability would create undue hardship for the employer:
- A small business that operates out of the employer’s house building a wider doorway and adding a ramp to accommodate an employee’s wheelchair
- A small company buying a vehicle with hands-only controls so that an employee with limited use of their legs could work as a delivery driver
A big enough company with enough resources might be able to afford these accommodations; whether or not an accommodation is reasonable is not always clear-cut. If you and your employer disagree about whether your requested accommodations are feasible or whether they constitute undue hardship, an employment discrimination lawyer can help you present your case.
What Happens When an Employee Becomes Disabled While Employed?
Not all disability accommodation disputes involve employees with pre-existing disabilities applying for a new job. You might also face resistance from your employer if you are diagnosed with a disability and require accommodations to continue performing the functions of your current job. The legal procedures are different depending on whether your disability developed as a direct result of your work. Work-related disabilities include injuries resulting from work accidents. Occupational diseases also qualify for reasonable accommodations; what counts as an occupational disease varies from one line of work to another. If your disability is due to a work injury or occupational disease, you should first file for workers’ compensation, which may require your employer to make accommodations for you or assign you to a different position. If your disability is not work-related (such as if, while working for your employer, you get a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis and suffer vision and mobility problems), your first step should be to contact an employment lawyer.
Contact a Minneapolis Disability Accommodations Lawyer
If your current or prospective employer refuses to make reasonable accommodations for your disability, contact the Minneapolis disability accommodation lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP to set up a consultation.